Monday, September 12, 2011

"The Harvest of Grace" Review

The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Waterbrook Press through their Blogging for Books program. It is the third in a series of “Ada’s House” novels by this author. The first two books are The Hope of Refuge and The Bridge of Peace.

Unlike most Amish women, Sylvia Fisher has a unique passion in life – to run her family’s dairy farm. She loves tending the herd and even doing the daily chores that go along with a farm of this size. When an issue with an old beau comes to light, Sylvia escapes to another Amish community, where she is determined to help turn around the debt-ridden Blank family dairy farm.

Aaron Blank returns to his Amish home, after months in rehab, to find a distant father and an unlikely farmhand in Sylvia. Aaron has plans to rescue his parents from their debt, but Sylvia has her own plans for the farm. Will the two be able to find common ground? And will either of them be able to come to a place of forgiveness and grace?

Because I had not read the first two books in this series, I was a little confused throughout most of this book. The author does give a short recap of the first two books, as well as a list of characters, which was helpful. However, I did not think the summaries covered the stories enough to get me completely up to speed. I would say that this book, unlike other series books I have recently read, was more difficult to read as a stand-alone novel. I followed the story of Aaron and Sylvia quite easily, but as for the other characters’ stories (Lena & Grey, Ad & Israel, Cara & Ephraim), I felt I didn’t know their stories or their backgrounds enough to truly care about them. If you read this book, I recommend reading the first two books in the series first!

I think my favorite story in this novel was Aaron’s. I appreciated how he conquered an addiction with God’s help and how he planned to continue to rely on his faith in God in the future. I also thought that Sylvia’s story was a unique one to tell within an Amish community, and I enjoyed how she came to realize at the end that she wasn’t different. She just needed to find the right person for her.

In this novel, I felt there was an undercurrent of deceit, jealously, and lack of true forgiveness that contrasted too sharply with the overall umbrella of the Amish faith. While I realize that the Amish are imperfect people (as we all are), it seemed to me that too much sin in this book was overlooked and accepted and not handled in true Amish fashion. This novel did show the human side of Amish people, and that was refreshing. I just think there were too many things that were “swept under the rug” that would not have been in an Amish community. An example of this is that Aaron’s father (Michael) said the words that he forgave Aaron for his addiction and for leaving the farm. But throughout most of the rest of the book, Michael acts horribly toward his son. He lacks a spirit of forgiveness even though he has claimed to have forgiven Aaron. Is that true forgiveness? People of the Amish faith must forgive anyone who asks, but doesn’t that also mean acting as if you have forgiven them and not just saying the words?

Despite my feelings expressed in the last paragraph, this novel still portrayed grace and forgiveness in an excellent way in the other storylines and at the end of the book. Also, all of the plots in this series of books are wrapped up nicely with an epilogue at the end of The Harvest of Grace.

I will give The Harvest of Grace … 3 1/2  BookWorms

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Waterbrook Press through their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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